While the Windows 7 beta announcement is one of the bigger stories coming out this week, there's a number of other cool developments that nicely complement the Microsoft Research (MSR) presentation that Chris and I paired up on during the Northeast Roadshow series in December.

Kodu Remember the engaging Xbox game programming environment called Boku, that Chris talked about?  It's been renamed Kodu (get it, "code, do"), and was featured at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  Kodu will be available this spring on the Xbox LIVE Community Games channel, and you'll be able to build and share your own games with just an Xbox controller!  Check out coverage of Kodu and other Microsoft presentations at CES.

SongsmithAlso recently released from MSR is Microsoft Songsmith, the perfect application to unleash your inner American Idol.  Songsmith provides musical accompaniment to match the singer's voice - sort of Karaoke in reverse.  All you need is a microphone (and friends to make it more fun of course).  You can buy Songsmith now from the Microsoft store for $29.95, or download a free trial that gives you six hours of usage time (use it for six hours one day, or one hour for six days).

  
High Capacity Color Barcodes Lastly, the work that MSR has been doing on high capacity barcode technology also made some news at CES as Microsoft Tag.  Here's how it works:

1.  Download the application to your camera-enabled mobile phone - lots of devices are supported, not just Windows Mobile!

2.  Aim the viewing frame at the tag of interest.

3.  Whatever actions are encoded in the tag take place.  On a product brochure, for instance, this might trigger a link to bring up a site with more information, whereas a tag on a business card might add that person to your contact list, as a Facebook friend, or someone to follow on Twitter.

Here's a couple I came up with... have fun.  Note, if you're having trouble getting the application to read the image, try different angles, reducing glare, etc.

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